MIGRATION and ARRIVAL of the Maltese into CanadaInitially, migrants were directed to other British colonies in the Mediterranean and the West Indies, but the Maltese themselves preferred the coastal regions of nearby northern Africa, where an estimated 36,000 had settled by 1885. An influx of cheap labour from other parts of Africa eventually made that continent less attractive, so that by the last decades of the nineteenth century the Maltese had begun emigrating to Britain, Australia, and North America. Unemployment in 1907, resulting from the end of a major construction project at the harbour and dockyard in Malta, stimulated an emigration movement. A significant number of workers left for Australia, the United States, and Canada, assisted by a volunteer group, the Malta Emigration Committee. These three countries were the preferred destinations because the Maltese believed that their knowledge of English would be an asset. An interest in Canada may also have been stimulated by the appointment in 1911 of the Duke of Connaught as governor general, since he had lived in Malta as commander-in-chief of the British High Command in the Mediterranean. However, at this time Canadian immigration policy restricted the entry of the Maltese on the ground that they were not of northern European background, despite their status as British subjects. A small number were admitted, but the racial issue would continue to be an obstacle until the 1960s.
From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Maltese/
From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Maltese/
At the end of World War I the lay-off of large numbers of workers at the naval dockyard again led to high levels of unemployment. In the period up until 1921 the exodus of thousands of Maltese virtually counterbalanced the natural population growth. A government department was established to promote emigration, and between 1918 and 1920 over 10,000 individuals left for the United States, Australia, or Canada. In the 1920s and 1930s, however, the number of Maltese who came to this country was low, and more than half eventually returned to the homeland. World War II halted the movement to Canada; by this time the community here was estimated at 2,000.
After the war the Maltese government re-established a department responsible for emigration, and a generous assisted-passage scheme was introduced. Between 1948 and 1967 over 90,000 people, or 30 percent of the 1948 population, left the islands. Of this number 13,000 came to Canada. The British government in 1953 contributed approximately $800,000 towards transportation costs during the following four years. Under the assisted-passage program individuals were able to emigrate to Canada for about $40. In addition, families received an allowance. Priority was given to ex-service-men and those who already had family members in this country.
The Maltese government had endeavoured to persuade the Canadian authorities to open the door more widely to its citizens. In March 1948 the two governments announced that a settlement scheme had been worked out. Five hundred individuals, to be selected by Canadian officials, would be admitted as construction workers “in recognition of the outstanding service rendered by the people of Malta during the war, and to assist them in dealing with their reconstruction problem.” The government in Malta would look after transportation arrangements. The first group of 131 immigrants embarked for Halifax in May and the rest the following month. Many were tradesmen from the dockyard; a few were professionals. They were taken by train to London, Ontario, where they were housed temporarily in a nearby air force training centre. Eventually they were referred to jobs in other cities in southern Ontario or found work on their own. This was the beginning of a steady flow of immigrants from Malta in the post-war years, which by 1979 would reach more than 18,000. In the early 1950s the annual level was set at 300 workers and their dependants. The selection in 1950, 1951, and 1952 was made by Maltese authorities, but, because of difficulties placing the newcomers, the process was subsequently taken over by Canadian immigration officials.
In the late 1950s the Maltese government became concerned about the number of emigrants who were returning home. In the period between 1948 and 1963, of those who had settled in Canada, 940 went back to Malta. Initially, as many as half eventually re-emigrated, but by the end of the 1950s work opportunities in the homeland had improved. As well, wages had increased, and health insurance and other social-assistance programs had been introduced. Those who emigrated to Canada often had difficulty finding work, and their problems were compounded by the harsh winters, to which they were unaccustomed.
When Canadian immigration regulations were amended in 1956, Malta was not among the countries from which newcomers were officially admissible. Until 1962, when the rules were again revised, admissions were authorized each year by order-in-council. Candidates were pre-selected by Maltese authorities and reviewed by Canadian immigration officials, who visited the country once a year. Beginning in 1963, applications were processed by the Canadian embassy in Rome. That year, under pressure from the British government, which was ending its military presence in Malta, Canada agreed to accept immigrants who did not qualify on occupational grounds. Some 869 individuals entered this country in 1963; the following year the number increased to 1,070, of whom three-quarters were sponsored by relatives in Canada.
Maltese immigration to this country continued to grow in 1964 and 1965, but it dropped off in the following year because of improved employment opportunities in the home country resulting from the government’s drive to expand local industry and tourism. Most of those who arrived were sponsored immigrants joining their families here. The introduction in 1967 of the “point system,” which evaluated all potential immigrants to Canada equally, ended discrimination on the basis of ethnic background or country of origin. However, because of the improved situation in the homeland, by the mid-1970s Maltese immigration had stabilized at the low level of about 160 a year. From the end of World War II to 1984 some 18,183 individuals had come to Canada. After that period the number per year averaged 100, and in 1991 only 29 Maltese newcomers entered the country.
The size of the Maltese community in Canada has been estimated to be as high as 50,000. Determining the actual number is difficult because, as British subjects, the Maltese were included in the “other British” category in early immigration and population data. Also, since the majority, especially those who arrived after World War II, spoke English, they were able to integrate more readily into Canadian society than some other groups. Further, they resemble Italians, Greeks, or other people of Mediterranean origin and may have chosen not to identify themselves as Maltese.
The 1991 census records 15,525 individuals who gave their single ethnic origin as Maltese and an additional 10,040 who designated themselves of multiple origin, for a total of 25,565. The great majority (14,605) were to be found in Ontario. The largest community was in Metropolitan Toronto, which contained 15,120 individuals of Maltese origin (single and multiple). Other Ontario cities with Maltese populations were London (1,620), Oshawa (1,040), Windsor (980), Hamilton (885), St Catharines (515), Ottawa-Hull (275), and Kitchener (235). Elsewhere in Canada the largest communities were in Vancouver with 555, Montreal with 385, and Winnipeg with 205. Smaller numbers were to be found in Halifax, Calgary, Edmonton, and Victoria.
Please Note - After 1935
Unfortunately, Pier 21 is not able to access Canadian immigration records for persons arriving after 1935, all records for arrivals after 1935 are held in Ottawa with the Department of Citizenship and Immigration and are not open to the public. They are protected under the Canadian Privacy Act for seventy-five years from date of arrival.